I removed two ancient raisins from my bra in a meeting once – bet that never happens to Posh…
22:21 GMT, 2 May 2012
Yummy mummy: Victoria Beckham
The raisins are back. Three years after I thought I’d seen the last of the shrivelled little menaces they’re on the loose again and infiltrating every area of my life. This is because baby Mabel, nearly one, is ‘well into her raisins’ (as the eldest, who is nearly ten, puts it).
She’s finally stopped putting them up her nose and started to eat them from those tiny cardboard boxes.
Perversely, she enjoys chewing the box as much as wolfing down the fruit and because her motor skills are still on a par with Keith Richards after a night of heavy drinking, raisins are strewn across every floor, down the back of every chair and ground into all available carpets.
There are so many small brown pellets lurking everywhere, the house looks as if it’s been suddenly invaded by incontinent rabbits.
And I’m getting raisin flashbacks (you’ll understand if you have a toddler). Once, when the other three were little, I remember discreetly removing two ancient raisins from the left cup of my bra during a work meeting. I bet this kind of thing never happens to Victoria Beckham.
Raisins are the bane of every parent’s life. More irritating than encrusted Weetabix, which dries harder than cement, or powdered baby milk — a box of which exploded in our suitcase on the way back from holiday. It prompted an hour’s search in Customs with four tired children — oh happy days.
I’m convinced raisins were responsible for the break-down of one washing machine and possibly the car, where they seem to breed and stick to clean upholstery in the manner of barnacles.
I could, of course, ban the little devils from the house (raisins, not the children), but eating them seems a rite of passage in baby Mabel’s journey towards toddlerdom.
One minute, not so long ago, I was terrified she’d choke to death on them, the next she’s scoffing them alongside ever more adventurous nibbles (we haven’t bothered liquidising food for baby number four — in the chaos of six-seater meal times, she simply feeds herself solids. ‘Baby-led weaning,’ is the technical term, I’m told by more organised parents).
And just as baby Mabel waves goodbye to babyhood I’m watching my eldest hurtling towards adolescence, the hands of adulthood drawing her ever closer. And away from me. As she steps onto the brink of a new independence, the presence of this newer life in the family provokes a welcome softness in her.
A mother and her teenage daughter will have, on average, an argument lasting 15 minutes every 2 days
She and I may be about to face the mother of all power battles in the trenches of the teenage years, but Mabel’s constant reminders of her own baby years have been comforting for her.
She can witness unconditional love in action as I care for her dependent little sister. Maybe it reminds her of the deep love for her, the first baby. Will it make her feel emotionally secure as we bicker over skirt lengths and door slamming I do hope so.
Weekends are becoming more poignant for me as I watch the gulf between smallest and biggest widen: one child needs you to walk even the tiniest step with her, while another wants to walk everywhere alone (both wearing matching leopard-print leggings, I notice). One has thighs I’m squeezing until she explodes with laughter, and the other has thighs she’s squeezing into increasingly tight jeans.
‘You’ve still got me as me,’ Gracie-in-the-middle, aged eight, reassures me brightly. ‘I’m not grown up and I’m not a baby. What am I’ she asks mischievously.
She’s been on a school trip to the inappropriately named Suntrap nature centre and is covered from head to toe in mud. She’s lost one of her shoes and is wearing most of her clothes inside out.
I notice her ponytail has slipped and is sticking wildly out of the left side of her head as if her hair is trying to escape her madcap world.
‘I am truly blessed,’ I tell her.
‘Are you being moronic’ she asks. I think she means ironic, but you never know with Gracie.
‘And you’ve got me,’ the five-year-old pipes up. ‘I’m special because I am your favourite. Would you like one of my Piranha violets’
He winks (with both eyes, it’s his new hobby) and offers me a small purple sweet and a cheeky smile.
Lorraine Candy is editor-in-chief of Elle Magazine.